New York Yankees

Is this Starlin Castro’s best season ever?

New York Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (14) celebrates after hitting a 2 run homer during an MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees on April 22, 2017 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)
Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire

Starlin Castro has always been a solid player. Even when he was with the rebuilding Chicago Cubs squads of the early 2010s, he was usually one of the bright spots.

In 2017, it appears from looking at his numbers that Castro is finally putting everything together and having his best year yet. However, a deeper dive may prove that his hot April is what’s making his 2017 look so good. Castro, who is a career .282/.320/.414 hitter, was batting .313/.348/.486 with a .357 BABIP, .355 wOBA and a 121 wRC+ when he was felled by a hamstring injury.

Castro had a very hot April in which he hit five home runs, batted .352, and also had a very high .386 BABIP. Another unsustainable number was his .398 OBP. He cooled off a little in May, hitting only two home runs, but Castro continued hitting at a good pace and finished the month with more base hits than he had in April (34 to 32). He also hit seven doubles in May. He batted .301 and his BABIP dropped a bit to .356.

In June, his home run total jumped up again: He hit five more before his injury and his OBP was down to a more Castro-like .323. His walk rate also dropped in June to more Castro-like numbers. Since 2015, Castro has had a big range between his walk number and his strikeout number. His walk rate is usually in the 3-4 percent range while his strikeout rate is above 15 percent. In 2016 and this season, his strikeout rate is above 19 percent.

According to Fangraphs, Castro is also hitting the ball harder this year. 32.6 percent of his hits are classified as hard. He’s also hitting the ball on the ground more. While he does have 12 home runs this season, a lot of his contract is on the ground — 48.7 percent of his hits have been ground balls while 31.8 percent have been fly balls. If you go to Statcast and look at exit velocities, you’ll see insane numbers from Castro’s teammate Aaron Judge, who has a talent for hitting the ball extremely hard, usually in excess of 110 mph. Castro is no slouch either — 40 percent of his hits have been above 95 mph.

One area where Castro seems to have a problem — tied to his walk rate and strikeout rate — is his swing rate. His career swing rate is 48.7, so he has always liked to swing, but since he joined the Yankees, he has been more of a swinger. In 2016 his swing rate was 51.7 percent and this season it’s 50.6. The good thing about Castro swinging a lot is that he does make a lot of contact in the zone. Right now, he’s sitting at 89.3 percent, which is just below his career average of 89.9. Earlier in his career, Castro was better at making contact with pitches out of the zone. This year, he’s at his lowest number, 63.8 percent. He always seems to have that streaky side when he’ll be disciplined at the plate and then — for a few weeks — he’ll swing at everything, including balls in the opposing batter’s box.

Can this season become Castro’s best ever? If he comes back strong from his hamstring injury and plays like he did in April and early May — when he showed some discipline at the plate and made good contact with the ball — then yes. If he returns to his career norms, it will be a perfectly acceptable season for the Yankees’ second baseman… and that’s okay, too.


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